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Owens decision to step down at term end creates more questions than answers

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CANTON - Tuesday’s announcement by Rep. William L. Owens, D-Plattsburgh, that he will not see re-election this year has raised Republican hopes of winning back the seat in November.

St. Lawrence County Republican Committee Chair Thomas L. Jenison said the announcement by Mr. Owens, who was first elected in 2009 after former Rep. John H. McHugh was appointed secretary of the Army, took him completely by surprise.

“It certainly does open up some interesting scenarios,” he said. “I’m thinking that the Democrats have got to be really scrambling now.”

Calls to St. Lawrence County Democratic Committee Chair Mark J. Bellardini went unanswered Tuesday and St. Lawrence County Board of Legislators Chairman Jonathan S. Putney, D-Waddington, de

declined to speculate on the future.

“Bill’s moderate approach has served the people of the north country and our nation well,” Mr. Putney said, adding that he thinks “it’s more appropriate to recognize Bill’s services” than contemplate what happens next.

But not everyone shares Mr. Putney’s sense of propriety.

With three Republican candidates already declared in the race for the 21st congressional district – Joseph Gilbert of DeKalb Junction, Michael Ring of Adams Center and Elise Stefanik of Willsboro – Mr. Jenison said he thinks the race is still wide open.

“The scenario is really up in the air as far as who wants to run,” he said.

Candidates have until April 10 to file petitions, according to the state Board of Elections.

Candidates running on a party line will be required to get at least 1,250 signatures. Specifics are available on the state Board of Elections website, www.elections.ny.gov.

Mr. Jenison said if the Republican and Conservative parties unite behind a candidate, they will have an especially good chance at winning the 21st Congressional District seat.

“When you’re not dealing with an incumbent you have a much better chance of winning even if you’re an unknown,” Mr. Jenison said. “I think you’re going to find that the Republicans across the board have a very good chance.”

Mr. Jenison also predicted an outpouring of donations from national sources in this election as the fight for the 21st becomes another battle ground to determine which party controls the House of Representatives.

The county Republican Committee will meet later this month to discuss who the committee will endorse in the race.

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